Children today snack an average of three times a day, and they are mostly consuming sugary beverages, cookies, cake, candy, salty snacks and other high-calorie junk food, a new study shows.

In fact, children are now consuming 168 more calories from snacks than kids did in 1977, the research shows.

The findings confirm previous studies that indicate snacking may have run amok in the USA, and it may be contributing to the rising rates of childhood obesity.

"Today we think we need to be eating all the time, so we have snack foods available for our kids constantly," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina. "Kids are not only snacking too often, but essentially the foods they are consuming represent almost completely unhealthy foods."

He and his colleagues analyzed government data on the eating habits of more than 31,000 children, ages 2 to 18, from 1977 to 2006. Their findings, which are reported in the March Health Affairs, show that children are consuming:

•About 586 calories a day from snacks, compared with 418 calories from snacks in 1977.

•An average of 2,111 calories for the entire day, up from 2,000 in 1977.

•A greater percentage of their snack foods from sweetened beverages, juice, salty foods, candy and cereal than kids did in 1977.

•A smaller percentage of their snacks from milk and other dairy products than kids in 1977.

p>Source: USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2010-03-02-snacking02_ST_N.htm